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Fla. Lawmakers Pass Ban on Social Media for Kids Under 16

Thursday, 22 February 2024 06:25 PM EST

A bill to create one of the nation's most restrictive bans on minors' use of social media is heading to Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has expressed concerns about the legislation to keep children under the age of 16 off popular platforms regardless of parental approval.

The House passed the bill on a 108-7 vote Thursday just hours after the Senate approved it 23-14. The Senate made changes to the original House bill, which Republican Speaker Paul Renner said he hopes will address DeSantis' questions about privacy.

The bill targets any social media site that tracks user activity, allows children to upload material and interact with others, and uses addictive features designed to cause excessive or compulsive use. Supporters point to rising suicide rates among children, cyberbullying and predators using social media to prey on kids.

“We’re talking about businesses that are using addictive features to engage in mass manipulation of our children to cause them harm,” said the bill's Senate sponsor, Republican Erin Grall.

Other states have considered similar legislation, but most have not proposed a total ban. In Arkansas, a federal judge blocked enforcement of a law in August that required parental consent for minors to create new social media accounts.

Supporters in Florida hope that if the bill becomes law, it would withstand legal challenges because it would ban social media formats based on addictive features such as notification alerts and autoplay videos, rather than the content on their sites.

But opponents say it blatantly violates the First Amendment and that it should left to parents, not the government, to monitor children's social media use.

“This isn’t 1850. While parents show up at school board meetings to ban books, their kids are on their iPads looking at really bad stuff,” said Democrat state Sen. Jason Pizzo.

He sarcastically said lawmakers have other options if they want to parent other people's children.

"Let’s have a bill that encourages engaging with your children, cooking dinner, sitting at a table together, making eye contact, calling grandma to see if she’s OK once in a while.” he said.

The legislation had a mix of Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the issue.

DeSantis said he understood that the platforms could be harmful to teenagers, but stressed that parents need to play a role in monitoring use.

“We can’t say that 100% of the uses are bad because they’re not,” DeSantis said at an Orlando-area news conference before the bill passed. “I don’t think it’s there yet, but I hope we can get there in a way that answers parents’ concerns.”

But Renner, who made the issue his top legislative priority, thinks the governor will approve the final product because it addresses his concerns about user anonymity.

Some parents also have mixed feelings.

Angela Perry, a mother from central Florida, said she understands the rationale behind bill, and that she and her husband didn’t let their daughter onto any major platforms until she turned 15. But she believes it should be up to every parent to make that decision based on the maturity of their children.

“Whatever happened to parental rights?” Perry said. “You are already selecting books my child can read at school. That is fine to a certain extent. But now you are also moving into their private life as well. It’s becoming intrusive.”

The Florida bill would require social media companies to close any accounts it believes to be used by minors and to cancel accounts at the request of a minor or parents. Any information pertaining to the account must be deleted.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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A bill to create one of the nation's most restrictive bans on minors' use of social media is heading to Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has expressed concerns about the legislation to keep children under the age of 16 off popular platforms regardless of parental ...
social, media, ban, florida, lawmakers
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2024-25-22
Thursday, 22 February 2024 06:25 PM
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